• Stick a times-table or periodic table of the elements on the back of his notebook.
  • Offer games that teach with several of the five senses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching), as in sharing pizza or cake to learn fractions, or sorting silverware together.
  • Tie learning to the real world, for instance, use money for math exercises, and relay the child-as-hero tsunami and electrical-wire stories above.
  • Encourage him to use colored pencils to break up information.
  • To reduce his anxiety, help him cut a window or slot in a square of cardboard so he can work on a page with only a portion of the text being visible.
  • Encourage him to reword the question and create word problems for himself.
  • For kids who transpose numbers (as in confuse 16 with 61), play card-search games.
  • Find family games that reinforce science and math learning, and play them with him: Monopoly, Scattergories, Scrabble, Yahtzee, crossword puzzles, cribbage, Kings in the Corner, poker, and other card games. (Yes, solo computer games work too, but family games provide the extra key ingredient—time with you.)
  • Quote sports statistics, and ask him to find information on his favorite sports.
  • Cook and bake; he will use fractions without feeling intimidated as he reads recipes. Have him double his favorite recipes, then praise him for his effort.
  • Use jingles: “Six and eight went on a date; they became forty-eight.”
  • Play with him using money; have him make change.
  • Have him help you figure out the best deal at the grocery store. (“Is it cheaper to buy a four-pack of pudding for $.99 or a twelve-pack for $2.79?”)
  • Learn to use programs like Touch Point Math, a multisensory program designed to engage kids of all abilities and learning styles (www.touchmath.com).
  • In a family meeting, ask kids to solve a math problem a variety of ways. Example: “How many different ways can we figure out the number of packages of hot dogs we’ll need for the party?” Then honor each child’s method of coming up with the answer. Require them each to solve it differently, and praise their effort. That way it is not just the answer but the process that will get the praise.
  • Drill your kids on the basic skills while they are young. “Parents who think that calculators negate the need to learn multiplication tables are wrong,” says Bloomington, Minnesota, math teacher Nancy Johnson. “Kids who don’t memorize them don’t get the higher concepts. I’ve seen it again and again.”

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.